When you’re considering buying a new car, a hybrid midsize sedan may not be the first ride that comes to mind. Heck, it may not be in your top five. But so long as full-on electric cars remain a fairly costly proposition, a midsize hybrid is the practical, efficient car that most of us should be driving.
Hyundai’s new entry into that segment proves that idea should be anything but spirit-crushing. The all-new version of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid recently debuted for the 2020 model year. It’s remarkably fuel-efficient, earning up to 52 mpg combined in Blue trim level form; but unlike many hybrids on the market, fuel efficiency is just one of its many features. It’s also a sophisticated, spacious, and exceedingly comfortable car in its own right — and best of all, like a lot of Hyundai Group offerings of late, it’s a great value, starting for less than $30,000.
The Sonata Hybrid feels more expensive than it is
The Sonata Hybrid plays the same trick as another recent Hyundai Group success, the Kia Telluride: it feels like it should cost more than it does. The interior is luxurious and spacious, with a clean layout; my Limited trim tester even brought soft leather.
Some may find the exterior polarizing — it’s a bit fishy at the front, and there’s a controversial chrome seam running the car’s length — but it’s still an urbane look devoid of any zaniness or glaring blue hybrid styling. Throw in some tech features like the 360-degree and blind-spot cameras, and everything about the Sonata Hybrid reads as premium…except the price tag.
This Hyundai is surprisingly pleasant to drive
The Sonata Hybrid is not sporty, or anything resembling it. But it is a quite comfortable cruiser. The engine and cabin were notably quiet, and the suspension damping was excellent. It uses a more engaging six-speed automatic instead of the dreary CVT many hybrids employ, and the 192-horsepower combined output offers a reasonable amount of pop at lower speeds.
The drive modes could be tuned a bit better, and yeah, the regenerative brakes bite a bit too hard. But on the whole, you aren’t sacrificing much everyday performance for fuel efficiency — which, for the record, was 48 mpg over my week of driving.
The Sonata Hybrid offers a futuristic roof
If you look closely at the Sonata Hybrid’s roof on the Limited trim, you’ll see something you normally don’t see: a solar panel. Hyundai says it can add up to 700 miles of “free driving” over the course of the year. That doesn’t sound like much, considering the 12,000-plus miles most of us drive; that’s a little more than one tank of gas, for this car with a 680-mile range, saved over a calendar year.
But on the other hand, that could be also work out to a month’s worth of commutes if you don’t drive far. You also aren’t using the EV range continuously in a hybrid, so it helps keep the battery topped off without having to resort to a plug — an arrangement that offers the inconvenience of an EV without the efficiency. We’re a long way from on-roof solar being a major source of driving range for cars, but it’s a start.
Price as Tested: $36,675
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter inline-four hybrid, six-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Power: 192 hp
Fuel Economy: 45 mpg city, 51 mpg highway
Hyundai provided this product for review.
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